"In the Diaspora we are repeatedly seeing disturbing images of settlers uprooting olive trees and committing acts of violence against Palestinian civilians - is this true, or just propaganda? What do you ladies think about this?
Mike S, Johannesburg.
The Al Jazeera article that Mike S. attached to his question described beatings of farmers, arson and the destruction of trees. Mike was my classmate; we’ve had minimal contact for almost 50 years. He lives in South Africa and was sufficiently concerned to reach out.
I considered bombarding him with refutations – more Palestinians commit acts of terror against settlers than vice versa, most residents of the West Bank are peace-loving and chilled, these thugs are an infinitesimal percentage of Israelis – but I doubt refutations will win us hearts and minds. It’s true that no Israeli government has ever publicly condoned settler violence (although MK Itamar Ben-Gvir and his henchmen presumably think it’s understandable); it’s true that “pogroms” are state-sponsored acts of violence against a specific population, and the “Hilltop” hooligans are not state-sponsored, though they seem to believe they act for God.
However, most viewers faced with footage of kippa-wearing criminals wreaking destruction do not bother to track down a rational, liberal, mortified Israeli citizen for clarification. They say: “Israelis are villains; Palestinians are victims,” and they threaten us with sanctions and boycotts in response. If there are really only minimal numbers of these lunatics, why aren’t they hurled into jail? Why are they still at large, contaminating our name around the world, turning our supporters into disappointed detractors?
This behavior is tainting our soul. There is no place for it in Israel. If living in the West Bank turns even just the misguided fringe of Jews into vicious hate-mongers, it might be time to rethink.
Uri Gobey’s Facebook pages and Telegram channel documenting Israel make one’s hairs stand on edge. While the footage doesn’t serve as an absolution for some “settler youth” uprooting Palestinian trees and, worse, attacking Palestinians, the channel certainly showcases Jews in Judea and Samaria under constant attack. Pro-Hamas rallies, rioting, Molotov cocktails and explosive devices thrown at Jews and their vehicles are highlighted regularly, but very little of this makes local headlines, let alone the international press. Ironically, one has only to go into Arab Telegram channels such as “Islamic Movement – West Bank” for more evidence; these boast a daily breakdown of Palestinian actions against Jews.
Yet the international press fixates solely on “settler youth” violence against Palestinians.
Make no mistake: harming innocent Arabs is despicable. No one should be above the law, and though the IDF does not have the authority to arrest those who act illegally, the police should, and does, do so.
Recently my son boarded a bus headed to his program in Samaria. Seconds after I WhatsApped him to avoid a window seat, his bus was stoned by Arab youth. The Arab driver got out and yelled at them, which was commendable but problematic: the wide-open door left three passengers unprotected. Moreover, had the driver been Jewish and tried the same stunt, I doubt he would’ve lived to tell the tale.
I agree that violent behaviors taint our soul; I’m convinced if Jews in that area were polled, few would side with the hooligans. Would this be the same on the Palestinian side, if a poll were taken? That’s a thought I’d like to share with you, Mike!
While I am all for zeal and passion, these need to be used with care. There’s a fine line between fervor and hate, one that is far too often blurred. While zealots may feel the need to hate in order to accomplish the mission, hatred and danger are toxic for our spirit. I worry for our young who are positioning themselves in the epicenter of violence.
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef posited three good reasons for which to endanger one’s life. Settling in Eretz Yisrael is not one of them.
My grandmother, who lived to be 100, knew a Jerusalem of dirt roads, horses and buggies. She, like her friends, spoke Arabic fluently, and knew the customs of her neighbors. Coexistence was simply good business. I think of her as the temptation to slip into hate mode hits, when I watch the menacing actions of those who wish to harm us.
I do not believe we can hasten true geula (redemption) with stones and sticks. Settling the complete Land of Israel is not in our hands; it is up to God. Pushing the seat in front of us will not hasten the bus. Rushing the process of claiming all the land will only damage our young.
Hashem will decide if these youngsters are hooligans, or freedom fighters. He will decide our borders and the timing for the complete Eretz Israel. For now, Arabs are not our worst enemy. Being haredi I lean toward keeping a low profile vis-à-vis the nations of the world. Blood and guts are fodder for the vultures of journalism. Let’s not supply more material for global hatred against us.
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